On Sunday, December 27th, the SSUC community was invited to share their stories of Christmas, reflecting on one or more of the following:
- What is the story you want to tell about your Christmas celebration this year?
- What unexpected experience did you have this Christmas that you wouldn’t normally have had?
- What challenges and difficulties did you face this Christmas? How did you manage them?
- What new insight did you find in the Christmas story/tradition this year?
The community came through with many emails and texts. If you’d like to add your own, please email your story.
As the SSUC Christmas Eve gathering drew to a close the emotion in your voices was palpable and we were happy to hear you recognize and mention that this morning, Chris. How could we all not be emotional? There we were in our pjs on the sofa watching and listening and as the recorded Silent Night rolled our eyes filled with tears…well, I’m the demonstrative emotional one in this household. I tear up each and every time I hear that carol and for sure at each Christmas Eve service. And, this Christmas Eve seeing the faces of so many we are missing coming together in song and candle lighting could not have been more emotional for one and all.
Art and I looked at each other and we both knew that of all the gatherings held since March 8, 2020 this was the one to break our hearts. I hope never to experience that degree of painful emotion again. To know that the handshakes and embraces and the words of well-wishing were not be shared hurt – and that we could just now move onto bed rather than leaving the church into a star-filled snowy night. To hear you honour that emotion this morning was important.
We don’t often get to spend Christmas with other than our Edmonton family and while COVID robbed us of together time with them, it just made it possible for us to prepare a shared dinner we delivered to them when collecting their contribution to the meal. We briefly visited in the garage being masked while keeping social distance and then returned home.
We enjoyed numerous FaceTime calls on Christmas and Boxing Days and the highlight yesterday was watching our Vancouver crowd come ‘together’ in our daughter’s yard…everyone except the little ones masked and all opening gifts and collecting the dinner our daughter and son-in-law prepared for each of the families. The most joyous moment was seeing our first grandchild – now a woman of 34 – large in pregnancy as she awaits her fourth child in the next few days. COVID-19 has meant death and suffering and great pain and loss for so many…and yet here is the promise of new life. So, to say we are grateful for much is an understatement.
Our usual fall journey to Mexico could not happen this year and that cancellation was very hard to accept. The drive-through Cookie Walk participation encouraged by Jo Nicholas forced us to take our minds from ourselves and be part of something else. And, again, we are grateful because we have hardly ever been able to participate due to being away. And then we were able to take our time readying for the holidays. Oh yes, there were moments on cold snowy days when we yearned for the beach and the warm sun but then a phone call would come; a neighbor would drop off a baked treat or we would be able to watch one of the many holiday season SSUC treats and soon our melancholy would pass.
Lastly, I would like you to know that the SSUC telephone connection we undertook earlier this year and continue has been a gift. I have had long and engaging conversations with folks I hardly knew – but now know them much better. And when we do come together again, our relationships will be richer because of that connection that has flourished.
Art and I just want you to know how grateful we are to be a part of the SSUC community. Thank you. In deep and lasting appreciation,
Sandra and Art
I was rather dreading the start of the Christmas Season knowing how radically different it would look and feel in these challenging times of a pandemic. There would be no attending the ESO’s Handel’s Messiah to “kick off” the Christmas season; and there would be no family gatherings—a sad reminder for me of the large, joyful, and noisy Christmas gatherings I have always experienced.
However, I was pleasantly surprised to find how much I enjoyed the very quiet and peaceful time with Gerry, my partner/companion of the last 3 ½ years, as we fussed with dinners and organized around our various family Zoom gatherings. And, I also recognized that with Gerry’s children/grandchildren living in London and Toronto, as well as family here, that this would likely be the only Christmas that we spend entirely together.
And, I’m pleased to report, I’ve listened to a plethora of versions of Handel’s Messiah on YouTube, from the Sydney Opera House, to numerous North American productions, and my personal favourite this year, the Toronto Symphony Orchestra’s Messiah/Complex. Wow!
All in all, a joyful, peaceful, reflective, and uplifting Christmas season!
For my birthday in November, I was gifted with a book, One Drum, by Richard Wagamese by Elin, my nephew’s wife and a spiritual seeker, which I am sharing reading with her. The first insight is that we are one with Creation. When we breath, we are in association with every other living thing, and Wagamese says the “We are one with Creation”. It saddens me that the birds and wildlife are disappearing, that we continue to log old growth forests with no regard for the wildlife that have homes there, that our government is contemplating strip coal mining in the Crowsnest Pass area, that our parks are targeted for resource extraction. It all feels so wrong. The second insight in his book is that the Creator is a perfect being, and therefore, there is no judgement. Wow! Why have we not made that connection before. Growing up in the Catholic church, listening to the nuns threaten penalties for sin, this use of guilt and fear which is so off-putting clouded my thinking until adulthood. This experience has made me resentful of attempts to prevent enquiry and questions. Because of that tradition, I began a search for spiritual meaning and understanding. I read my way out of the Catholic faith without a shred of fear or doubt about what I was doing. That was extremely liberating, and when the rug is pulled out from under a religious tenet that has no foundation in history, truth or reason, I just love that kind of stuff.
The third insight is from a book given to me by my cleaning girls. We exchanged gifts on Dec. 22nd, and I dove into Living in a Mindful Universe by Eben Alexander, MD, a neurosurgeon’s near death experience, and his miraculous cure of a bacterial infection in his neocortex that should have left him dead or a vegetable. Apparently, there is worldwide research going on in the fields of medicine, psychiatry and quantum physics into the source of consciousness. It was held that it was based in the brain. However, near death experiences have proven that that cannot be. Alexander’s brain was dead, but while in a coma, he was alive in spirit and being shown a spiritual universe that he could not find words to describe. Among researchers, there are credible reasons to think that life after death is a reality and no longer a matter of faith. Isn’t that exciting! Alexander was afraid that his colleagues would think him insane. Instead, he discovered the many outstanding professionals who had been thinking and researching the issue quietly, but for decades. Well, this will pull the rug out from under some determined atheists.
And WeiMan and I were able to go to Cathy’s home for Christmas dinner (I am a member of a Malaysian family, the Changs. We adopted each other), and we were sent home with enough food for a week. I haven’t talked that much for months! And yesterday, a dear friend from Library School brought me a complete Christmas dinner which I enjoyed last night, plus a bottle of Dry Sac sherry, my favorite. I have been truly blessed in so many ways, not the least of which is finding Southminster-Steinhauer. . Another insight by Wagamese is that “energy attracts like energy”, so may it be so for all.
With all the joy of intellectual freedom,
This year our Christmas had special significance as it would be the last one for our daughter to celebrate. We were preparing to gather as a family on Christmas day but our son and his Family were experiencing minor cold symptoms. So as a covid precaution we went to plan B. On the day each Of us brought our portion of the dinner and the great hand off on Andrea’s porch began. Stewart dropped off gifts potatoes and ham. We reciprocated with turkey and trimmings. They raced home and set up facetime- and we all ate and chatted merrily. Never thought I would love technology So much. At first I thought there would be no room in our inn and we would have to turn away part of our family. Love knows no boundaries. God bless us everyone!!
We always had family and friends over for the Christmas Day dinner. This year it was only our immediate family…only four of us. Yes, it was different, yet it was very intimate and meaningful.
Reiner and Amy
A special Christmas moment was once the Turkey dinner was ready and boxed up fir the family to come and get it , the excitement happened. The two daughters arrived with the grand dogs in tow. The girls were festively dress as Santa and a moose. We greeted each other masked and at a distance. And it was so good to see them again. The 5 if us felt this a special time. We passed our gifts to each other, visited, talked about our day. Everything felt very special and poignant the food we gave them was special as it was prepared in love and received in love. It was a brief but very special love felt. We touched and were touched without touching. Christmas love was so present with one another in a different way. Gordon and Esther
This year had the convergence of Jupiter and Saturn. Unfortunately the times I went to look the sky was cloudy. Stories that suggested it was the Christmas Star, a repeat of an event of the year 2 AD.
Not only did I miss my children but I had to accept that I couldn’t do more than listen to the loneliness one if my children felt. In trying to make Christmas dinner, I overestimated my energy. I have to accept that I simply cannot do what I used to do.
This year was the same in some ways but very different in others. Dinner was turkey with the trimmings and a day spent with some family—our limited bubble [Brett, Serenity & Ashley] with a brief poignant hallway exchange of gifts/stockings with Trent & Karin. Our bubble opened stockings and ate snacks and lots of chocolate.
In the early afternoon, Karin organized a Zoom meeting that encompassed 4 households, 3 timezones [Alberta, BC and Sweden] to have 11 of us conversing, laughing and exchanging family digs.
The challenge was to have some normalcy in the face of this “unnormal” time. Thanks to technology we were able to have a gathering larger than usual but lacking some of the intimacy. When we are apart at other “special” times, we would do this again. Insight—we’re still working on it.
Arv & Berni
I have watched the family telling of the Christmas story three times! As I watch, I am either laughing or dabbing at warm tears–what a GIFT FROM EACH AND EVERY ONE!
My personal experience this Christmas is that family, friends, neighbors and my church community have “gone over the top” to make it special. It has brought out the best in us! Deeply grateful,
This Christmas I listened to most parts of Handel’s “Messiah” three times. The words “Arise, shine for thy light has come” almost always lifted me, regardless of what I was facing. At the end of the day, when I turned off the Christmas lights in our home, and considered the fatigue and isolation weighing us down, I sometimes took a deep breath and remembered the words in the “Messiah” that followed: “and the glory of the Lord has risen upon you”.
I like the first set of words better than the second. I can relate to the effort of standing up, trying my best to be a shining example regardless of circumstances, but the experience of some kind of glory rising up within me or upon me seems too presumptuous and elusive in these harsh times.
There is something new I have committed to this Christmas though. It’s a subtle experience I focus on when the lights are off and the house is quiet. It starts with releasing as many expectations as I can on how things should be and imagine something powerful and mysterious is rising and all I need to do is breathe it in and absorb it. Its been a satisfying meditative practice and I‘ve rested better because of it.
Christmas for us was a time of sharing peace and joy; a spiritual and prayerful time surrounded by candle lights, outside tree lights. music and excellent food. Christmas for us was taking a Christmas walk to bring a Christmas card and good wishes to eleven homes in our neighbourhood.
The unexpected was to connect with members of Sylvia’s family on Zoom and to cook Cornish hens instead of turkey. It was unexpected that it took as much effort to cook a Christmas feast for two as for family and friends.
I was challenged and sad that my sons and some grandchildren did not take time to connect with me; I teared up and was consoled by Sylvia. (As I am writing this, two grandsons phone me and I am delighted.) She was saddened at observing her daughter challenged by illness.
My new insight was the struggle to believe in an invisible world and to connect between earth time and invisible time. A continuing insight is the realization of the difficulty of resolving all disharmonies in the world. Sylvia’s insight was the emergence of the “Christmas Star” although grey skies prevented us from seeing it. We researched and appreciated the life and mission of Charles Dickens to bring solace to the marginalized of his society.
Simone and Sylvia
As Dec. 24th rolled around, we had little hope of seeing anyone, in the flesh, save one one another. Sam’s son Bryan, who lives alone, and in whose cohort we are – with none but his little dog, Buddy – had been invited to join us for a Christmas Eve sleepover but he had declined. Lo, and behold, midday on Christmas, Bryan announced that they would join us for dinner.
When he arrived he brought his pillow. We were ever so grateful that he would not be alone on Christmas. We played games and laughed a lot, the boys helped with the meal and cleanup and we had a lovely day and evening.
It was special in its simplicity. While we could have mourned not seeing the whole family, we chose to celebrate on Boxing Day with a family video chat where we opened our gifts together. It was a completely different Christmas but very special nevertheless.
Theresa & Sam
Christmas Krentebrood (raisinbread)
As the COVID 19 global pandemic has gone on and on and on with ever widening ripples of effects and implications for our physical and mental health, familial relationships, societal cohesion, and economic stability, I find myself pondering more and more on Christmas with my parents and the two brothers that I spent my early life’s journey with.
My parents came to young adulthood in occupied Europe during World War II. They chose to navigate the chaos of societal rebuilding that eventually followed the armistice by becoming part of the movement of refugees and immigrants that flowed uneasily around the globe over the next decade. Canada became home and specifically Alberta.
Looking back now I can see how life became for them a careful negotiation between living in the new world and hanging on to the most important traditions of the old. Christmas was a case in point.
Santa Claus came to my childhood home but he arrived on Christmas Eve so that the frenzy of overstimulated children and unwrapping presents did not mar the religious significance of the following Christmas Day.
On Christmas morning we woke to classical religious Christmas music coming from an LP record playing on the HiFi system in its cabinet in the living room. We stayed in our beds because we knew what was coming. Into the darkness and cold of our bedrooms mom would bring each of us a tray that she put on the chair placed ready beside our beds. Every tray held a glass star candle holder decorated with real evergreen twigs and tiny colourful breakable Christmas balls and a real burning candle. There was a cup of tea with milk and sugar and a plate of mom’s Christmas Krentebrood (raisinbread) spread with butter and sprinkled with white sugar. We quietly sat in our beds and ate our treat and drank our tea while watching the candles burning in our dark bedrooms.
Eventually we got up to join around the kitchen table for the rest of our Christmas breakfast before getting ready for church.
Years later when I had a young family of my own, my partner and I negotiated, as all families do, between living in the new world of our own family and hanging on to the most important traditions of our childhood families.
Christmas Eve looked much different for me by then. Church was on Christmas Eve not Christmas Day and since both my partner and I were working in the church, the end of the Christmas Eve gathering that marked the end of many community seasonal activities was generally celebrated by putting our feet up and having a drink with the good friends who unfailing took in our sons on Christmas Eve while we were away working.
This also enabled the traditional Canadian Christmas morning frenzy. The very thought of bringing my spirited young sons a burning candle accompanied by flammable material so they could eat a treat in their beds seemed distinctly unwise!
However, despite the fact that I have continued my life journey for many years now without my parents and brothers, I still bake my mom’s Christmas Krentebrood (raisin bread) every year. My partner and I enjoy it and I gift it to two members of my extended family who still remember my mom and her traditions.
I believe we have all done this dance during this pandemic Christmas season of 2020… negotiating between the traditions of our old pre COVID19 Christmas life and into the realities of our new pandemic world. It is our way of finding the hope necessary to move on with life.
We have adapted before and we will again. It is the way of things and the way of life.
Blessings to all and stay safe.
We will meet again.
I relished the challenge to create a different Christmas experience for my family. My homemade goodies were distributed ahead of time to give them the traditional tastes from my kitchen. We shared our Christmas Eve supper over zoom and had a Zoom meeting open all Christmas day. After the gift opening, my kids/grandkids in Saskatchewan and my family in Ontario dropped in whenever they wanted. I played games with my grandchildren that I had prepared and sent out to them prior to that day. It was a joyous experience! We will continue to bring my mother in Ontario into our Christmas celebrations in the coming years as it brought her (and us) so much pleasure to be a part of the festivities.
Truly a season to remember fondly!
For the last eleven years (since 2010) we have been in Calgary with kids for Christmas. This year in Edmonton Christmas is much different. Much quieter and much less chaotic. Just me (Don) and my beloved Annabel. Zoom call with kids, listening to carols from choirs and orchestras around the world and live streaming all our Christmas spiritual gatherings and productions. Thanks to Nancy and Chris and all who made these Christmas gatherings and productions so special.
We may be locked down but we are not alone and we are grateful. P.S. A big shout out to the families who told the Christmas Story.
Don and Annabel
Due to COVID restrictions, my granddaughter from BC is living with me and completing her university degree online. A blessing for both of us. Celebrating Christmas and New Years together is very exciting!!
We have 32 units in our condo development and on Christmas Eve at 6pm almost everyone came out to their front yard and rang bells or pots to make lots of noise and wave to each other, as well as to thank our wonderful health care workers! Everyone had such a good time.
-Cam and Sandra
“Distance” is mentioned in the Christmas story and conveys particular meanings (inconvenience, travel, time, uncertainty, distress for a pregnant Mary); distance in 2020 has also come to mean ‘safety’ and longing/lonelineness.
-June and Dave
Unexpected how ‘connected’ we can become with the tread of Internet via zoom. A new insight was the ‘hope’ of Christmas as we anticipate the hope for a new year!